Paella

Paella
Being Asian, I like rice. Being Japanese, I love seafood. Add to that my affinity for smoked meats and it’s no wonder why Paella is one of my favourite foods off all time. Sadly it’s so often relegated to the ranks of mediocrity by pan wielding Cretans manning the stoves at “Spanish” restaurants here in the States. Perhaps I’m being a little harsh, but if you’ve been disappointed as many times as I have by mushy or dry paella you can probably relate.

I have to be honest though, I’ve never been to Valencia (or Spain for that matter). I have had a lot of paella though and I can’t imagine a Valencian being okay with bland pasty mush with chewy bits of mystery seameat. On rare occasion I’ve had a memorable paella, and this is my attempt at recreating some of the best ones to grace my non-Spaniard palette.

I was actually planning on doing something with a pork butt and green tea today, but after seeing Heather’s post about Orzo with Linguica and Clams at Gild the Voodoolily this morning, my menu made an abrupt turn.

For me, a truly great paella is loaded with meat and seafood, with an intense smokey flavour coming from browned Chorizo and tender chunks of chicken. The seafood should be fresh, plump and succulent including things like shrimp, octopus, squid, mussels, or whatever other seafood is fresh at the fish monger today. The rice should be overflowing with umami having a velvety texture and a deep golden hue imbued by the saffron and soffrito. Most importantly, there has to be a layer of mahogany brown soccarat at the bottom of the pan from the rice and sauce caramelizing to the pan.

The following recipe achieved all my goals and best of all it’s simple enough to make on a weeknight. While I always encourage you to improvise your own version, here are a couple tips for a successful paella.

First, make sure you use the right kind of rice. Ideally you’ll find some Arroz Valencia, but if it’s not available, Arborio or Carnaroli will do. Second, make sure you get the right kind of Chorizo. Mexican Chorizo is not the same. There are also a lot of impostor “Chorizos” out there that are really just cooked sausages with paprika. Spanish Chorizo is cured and is typically pretty dry. If in doubt, get one that’s actually from Spain.

So what’s your favourite rice dish?

for seafood
1 lbs shelled deveined prawns (and or mussels, octopus, squid, scallops or whatever else is fresh)
olive oil
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper

for paella
1/2 lbs Spanish chorizo picante (not the Mexican kind) cut into 1/4″ slices
4 boneless skinless chicken thighs cut in half
1 medium onion chopped
1 red bell pepper chopped
4 cloves garlic pressed or minced
1/2 tsp cumin
2 tomatoes seeded and chopped
2 Tbs drained capers
1 1/2 C Valencia rice (Arborio will do in a pinch)
2 1/2 cups chicken stock ( I used half duck stock, half chicken stock)
1 tsp aged balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp saffron crushed
1/2 C shelled peas (or frozen if you can’t find fresh ones)
4 stalks asparagus cut on the bias

Marinate the prawns in some olive oil, garlic, paprika, salt and pepper about 30 minutes before starting the rest of the paella.

In a chef’s pan (or other large flat pan with a lid), fry the chorizo. There should be enough fat in the Chorizo so that you don’t need to add any oil, but if you don’t see any fat rendering out after a minute, add some olive oil. When the chorizo is nice and brown and most of the fat has rendered out, transfer it to a paper towel lined plate.

Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper and brown on both sides in the pan the Chorizo came from. Transfer the chicken to the plate with the chorizo.

If there is more than 2 tablespoons of fat in the pan, use a paper towel to soak the excess up. Add the onions and bell peppers and fry until they are soft and starting to caramelize. Add the garlic and cumin and fry until the garlic is fragrant (another minute or two).

Add the tomatoes and capers and cook until the tomatoes are soft. Add the rice and stir to coat then add the Chorizo, chicken, saffron, stock and vinegar. Bring to a boil then cover and turn the heat down to medium low (you should see a steady stream of steam escaping).

After 20 minutes, lay the shrimp on top of the rice and sprinkle the peas and asparagus on top. Cover and cook for another 5-7 minutes until the rice and shrimp are cooked.

Serve immediately, scraping up the soccarat that forms at the bottom. Sprinkle with some parsley serve with some lemon wedges for squeezing.

  • http://www.noblepig.com/ noble pig

    Okay this is perfection in the pan. It’s beautiful…just love it.

  • http://www.noblepig.com/ noble pig

    Okay this is perfection in the pan. It’s beautiful…just love it.

  • http://manggy.blogspot.com/ Manggy

    My favorite rice dish? Paella, hands down! What can I say? I’m Asian and I love seafood :) I have a paella pan I haven’t yet used… I want the first time to be perfect, so I need the perfect rice. In fairness, I haven’t met a Paella I didn’t like :)

  • http://manggy.blogspot.com manggy

    My favorite rice dish? Paella, hands down! What can I say? I’m Asian and I love seafood :) I have a paella pan I haven’t yet used… I want the first time to be perfect, so I need the perfect rice. In fairness, I haven’t met a Paella I didn’t like :)

  • http://voodoolily.blogspot.com/ Heather

    I’ve never seen a paella with so much beautiful, seasonal produce! Gorgeous. Thanks for the holla – I totally agree with your assessment of the majority of paellas. I’ve never been to Spain either, but I have a feeling the rice isn’t supposed to break a filling.

    I really like risotto – so versatile! I like to use arborio rice for a lot of other dishes (like jambalaya), but then they become risotto when the rice goes all creamy. Yum. I bet you could make some stellar congee with arborio rice.

  • http://voodoolily.blogspot.com Heather

    I’ve never seen a paella with so much beautiful, seasonal produce! Gorgeous. Thanks for the holla – I totally agree with your assessment of the majority of paellas. I’ve never been to Spain either, but I have a feeling the rice isn’t supposed to break a filling.

    I really like risotto – so versatile! I like to use arborio rice for a lot of other dishes (like jambalaya), but then they become risotto when the rice goes all creamy. Yum. I bet you could make some stellar congee with arborio rice.

  • http://stickygooeycreamychewy.blogspot.com/ Susan at Sticky,Gooey,Creamy,C

    This looks awesome! I just bought a paella pan and some Valencia rice a few weeks ago. I’ve been waiting for the opportunity to research some recipes and use it. After seeing your gorgeous paella, I’m even more anxious to try it!

  • http://stickygooeycreamychewy.blogspot.com Susan at Sticky,Gooey,Creamy,Chewy

    This looks awesome! I just bought a paella pan and some Valencia rice a few weeks ago. I’ve been waiting for the opportunity to research some recipes and use it. After seeing your gorgeous paella, I’m even more anxious to try it!

  • http://www.souvlakiforthesoul.com/ Peter G

    What a fantastic, colourful dish Marc. Great use of all that fresh produce. And I agree, fake and impostor chorizos just don’t cut it.

  • http://www.souvlakiforthesoul.com Peter G

    What a fantastic, colourful dish Marc. Great use of all that fresh produce. And I agree, fake and impostor chorizos just don’t cut it.

  • http://newlywedcooking.blogspot.com/ sharon

    I’m 100% with you (loving both seafood & rice) so accordingly, Paella has always been one of my favorites. I would also love to try the very authentic version seeing as I’ve only had paella from my own kitchen, at trendy tapas restaurants and in the Dominican Republic. Your recipe looks amazing. I’ve tried making this twice & I’d love to try out your version as well.

  • http://newlywedcooking.blogspot.com sharon

    I’m 100% with you (loving both seafood & rice) so accordingly, Paella has always been one of my favorites. I would also love to try the very authentic version seeing as I’ve only had paella from my own kitchen, at trendy tapas restaurants and in the Dominican Republic. Your recipe looks amazing. I’ve tried making this twice & I’d love to try out your version as well.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05752371044060690705 cakewardrobe

    Looks sooo savory! I am the HUGE rice “box.” I gotta have my steak with rice as well. Thus, I loveee PAELLA. I haven’t found a comparable one in the states, never been to Spain either, but I’ve had paella at this restaurant called El Picoteo in Puerto Rico, in Old San Juan, and it was so special, that I will never forget it!!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05752371044060690705 cakewardrobe

    Looks sooo savory! I am the HUGE rice “box.” I gotta have my steak with rice as well. Thus, I loveee PAELLA. I haven’t found a comparable one in the states, never been to Spain either, but I’ve had paella at this restaurant called El Picoteo in Puerto Rico, in Old San Juan, and it was so special, that I will never forget it!!

  • http://www.hungryandfrozen.blogspot.com/ Laura @ Hungry and Frozen

    lol @ “pork butt” – my new terminology for it. I had Paella in Barcelona, but I suspect I was too tipsy on red wine by that stage to truly appreciate its majesty. Yours looks absolutely delicious, it’s one dish I’ve always wanted to attempt but the price of seafood puts me off.

  • http://www.hungryandfrozen.blogspot.com Laura @ Hungry and Frozen

    lol @ “pork butt” – my new terminology for it. I had Paella in Barcelona, but I suspect I was too tipsy on red wine by that stage to truly appreciate its majesty. Yours looks absolutely delicious, it’s one dish I’ve always wanted to attempt but the price of seafood puts me off.

  • http://www.sugarbar.org/ diva

    i adore paella! my favourite seafood dish cause you can bung any of your best loved seafood into a giant pan and cook the whole thing with homemade stock. ah, love it.

    yours looks amazing. love how it’s glistening and looks so creamy. wow.

  • http://www.sugarbar.org diva

    i adore paella! my favourite seafood dish cause you can bung any of your best loved seafood into a giant pan and cook the whole thing with homemade stock. ah, love it.

    yours looks amazing. love how it’s glistening and looks so creamy. wow.

  • http://www.weareneverfull.com/ We Are Never Full

    looks fabulous. you hit the nail on the head – the key to great paella is the soccarat. without that you have just a seafood, saffron and rice dish!! It’s also great when it has a bit of a crust on top too!

  • http://www.weareneverfull.com We Are Never Full

    looks fabulous. you hit the nail on the head – the key to great paella is the soccarat. without that you have just a seafood, saffron and rice dish!! It’s also great when it has a bit of a crust on top too!

  • Rosa

    Hi. Congratulation on your paella. I’m Spanish and delighted you got such a nice result! Only one thing, there is no stablished recipee for paella. Once was tried and no agreement was reached. It’s one of these dishes where the “right” recipee is always the one from your own mother.
    This said, paella is more a technique thant a dish. A little bit like risotto (but much better to my taste). So you can have mixed paella (fish, meat, and vegetables), vegetable paella, seafood paella, etc. etc. The key is to do some “sofrito” as a base and cook a little bit the meat/fish/vegetables, they add rice and water/broth, and cook for 20 minutes. As my mother saiys: 5 min strong fire, 10 min medium, 5 min very low. Then you can have arroz caldoso (if you use more water), arroz negro (using the ink from the squid), arroz con costra (finished in the oven), etc. etc. Or with the same basis, fideua (vermicelli pasta substituting the rice).
    Just in case you wonder, the best paella in the world is of course done by my mamà. She uses only seafood, fryes the seafood with the sofrito first, then peels it (gambas, langostinos, cigalas…), or opens (mussels, clams) or just cuts in little pieces (squid). She crushes the gambas shells and heads in a mortar and uses it to make a broth instead of water. Then finishes putting the seafood (shelled) on top in the last moment. Delicious. It’s called “arroz de señorito” (young master rice) because you do not need to bother peeling anything…
    Enjoy!

  • Rosa

    Hi. Congratulation on your paella. I’m Spanish and delighted you got such a nice result! Only one thing, there is no stablished recipee for paella. Once was tried and no agreement was reached. It’s one of these dishes where the “right” recipee is always the one from your own mother.
    This said, paella is more a technique thant a dish. A little bit like risotto (but much better to my taste). So you can have mixed paella (fish, meat, and vegetables), vegetable paella, seafood paella, etc. etc. The key is to do some “sofrito” as a base and cook a little bit the meat/fish/vegetables, they add rice and water/broth, and cook for 20 minutes. As my mother saiys: 5 min strong fire, 10 min medium, 5 min very low. Then you can have arroz caldoso (if you use more water), arroz negro (using the ink from the squid), arroz con costra (finished in the oven), etc. etc. Or with the same basis, fideua (vermicelli pasta substituting the rice).
    Just in case you wonder, the best paella in the world is of course done by my mamà. She uses only seafood, fryes the seafood with the sofrito first, then peels it (gambas, langostinos, cigalas…), or opens (mussels, clams) or just cuts in little pieces (squid). She crushes the gambas shells and heads in a mortar and uses it to make a broth instead of water. Then finishes putting the seafood (shelled) on top in the last moment. Delicious. It’s called “arroz de señorito” (young master rice) because you do not need to bother peeling anything…
    Enjoy!

  • http://cannelle-vanille.blogspot.com/ Aran

    oh you got it right! I am from Spain and so I am always so critical with all restaurants in the US making pseudo-paella. Paella is supposed to be a little “saucy”, not clumps of sticky rice and the rice on the bottom of the pan has to be a little “caramelized” if you know what I mean. Also, you are absolutely right, the chorizo is super important.
    And like Rosa said, there are many kinds of paella depending on ingredients or area. But your rendition looks divine!

  • http://cannelle-vanille.blogspot.com/ Aran

    oh you got it right! I am from Spain and so I am always so critical with all restaurants in the US making pseudo-paella. Paella is supposed to be a little “saucy”, not clumps of sticky rice and the rice on the bottom of the pan has to be a little “caramelized” if you know what I mean. Also, you are absolutely right, the chorizo is super important.
    And like Rosa said, there are many kinds of paella depending on ingredients or area. But your rendition looks divine!

  • marc

    Noble Pig, paella is definitely the perfect rice dish.

    Manggy, that’s awesome that you have an actual paella pan. You should be able to find the rice online somewhere if you can’t get it locally.

    Heather, Thanks:-) I love risotto as well, my big issue is the whole constantly stirring for 20 minutes thing. It definitely makes a difference in the creaminess of the rice which is why I’d never use a no-stir recipe, but it can be a bit of chore especially if you’re serving the risotto with something else.

    Susan, good luck, it’s totally worth it:-)

    Thanks Sharon, I’d love to go to Spain some day as well. So many things I’d like to try.

    Cakewardrobe, I think there’s something in our genetic makeup that make us crave rice.

    Laura, I had the same experience in Portugal, I think the food was amazing, but I usually had bottle of wine in me before I ate, so it makes me wonder if I just had wine goggles on;-)

    Diva, thanks! I like my paella’s slightly saucy.

    Rosa, thanks for the compliment and the very informative comment. I like the idea of making the stock out of the crushed shells. I think I’m going to have to try that the next time I make this.

    Aran, thanks! I think that’s the best compliment I could get. Now that tomatoes and peppers are coming into season I’ve been wanting to make some piperade. Hopefully it will pass muster as well as this dish:-)

  • marc

    Noble Pig, paella is definitely the perfect rice dish.

    Manggy, that’s awesome that you have an actual paella pan. You should be able to find the rice online somewhere if you can’t get it locally.

    Heather, Thanks:-) I love risotto as well, my big issue is the whole constantly stirring for 20 minutes thing. It definitely makes a difference in the creaminess of the rice which is why I’d never use a no-stir recipe, but it can be a bit of chore especially if you’re serving the risotto with something else.

    Susan, good luck, it’s totally worth it:-)

    Thanks Sharon, I’d love to go to Spain some day as well. So many things I’d like to try.

    Cakewardrobe, I think there’s something in our genetic makeup that make us crave rice.

    Laura, I had the same experience in Portugal, I think the food was amazing, but I usually had bottle of wine in me before I ate, so it makes me wonder if I just had wine goggles on;-)

    Diva, thanks! I like my paella’s slightly saucy.

    Rosa, thanks for the compliment and the very informative comment. I like the idea of making the stock out of the crushed shells. I think I’m going to have to try that the next time I make this.

    Aran, thanks! I think that’s the best compliment I could get. Now that tomatoes and peppers are coming into season I’ve been wanting to make some piperade. Hopefully it will pass muster as well as this dish:-)

  • http://whatdidyoueat.typepad.com/ sher

    Oh! Those pictures! I adore paella, but it is often awful in the restaurants. I found a wonderful place that makes a splendid version. Yours looks incredible. Bravo!

  • http://whatdidyoueat.typepad.com sher

    Oh! Those pictures! I adore paella, but it is often awful in the restaurants. I found a wonderful place that makes a splendid version. Yours looks incredible. Bravo!

  • http://canarygirl.com/ canarygirl

    What a beautiful paella! Like Rosa and Aran said, there really is no one recipe for paella, it depends on what’s fresh and what your mom (or suegra in my case lol) makes. Try the shrimp shell thing–omg it really deepens the flavor…I like to make a fumet with the shrimp shells and the fish bones/head/tail/skin (when I add fish to the paella). And another thing that is flippin awesome? Is making it on the grill. :D

  • http://canarygirl.com canarygirl

    What a beautiful paella! Like Rosa and Aran said, there really is no one recipe for paella, it depends on what’s fresh and what your mom (or suegra in my case lol) makes. Try the shrimp shell thing–omg it really deepens the flavor…I like to make a fumet with the shrimp shells and the fish bones/head/tail/skin (when I add fish to the paella). And another thing that is flippin awesome? Is making it on the grill. :D

  • http://www.cococooks.blogspot.com/ courtney

    That shot is gorgeous with all the bright color.

  • http://www.cococooks.blogspot.com courtney

    That shot is gorgeous with all the bright color.

  • http://www.culinarydisaster.com/wordpress Jeff

    Bookmarked this bad boy because on the to cook whiteboard this is on it. Looks so good and bet it tastes even better.

  • http://www.culinarydisaster.com/wordpress Jeff

    Bookmarked this bad boy because on the to cook whiteboard this is on it. Looks so good and bet it tastes even better.

  • http://allthingsnice.typepad.com/ syrie

    Your paella looks perfect. I just bought a 6 person paella dish a few weeks ago and am still to use it. I think I’ll give your recipe a go on the weekend. My fave rice dishes would be Paella, Biryani and a lebanese pilaf which consists of rice cooked in chicken stock with puy lentils and then topped with onions fried until they’re brown and crispy.

  • http://allthingsnice.typepad.com syrie

    Your paella looks perfect. I just bought a 6 person paella dish a few weeks ago and am still to use it. I think I’ll give your recipe a go on the weekend. My fave rice dishes would be Paella, Biryani and a lebanese pilaf which consists of rice cooked in chicken stock with puy lentils and then topped with onions fried until they’re brown and crispy.

  • http://www.culinarysherpas.com/ The Urban Eater

    Love the beautiful photo. The colors are great!
    This is almost exactly how I make my paella. Awesome!

  • http://www.culinarysherpas.com/ The Urban Eater

    Love the beautiful photo. The colors are great!
    This is almost exactly how I make my paella. Awesome!

  • http://www.cookeatfret.com/ claudia (cook eat FRET)

    just absolutely wonderful and fabulous and amazing.

    photo really is making me twitchy.

    it’s bookmarked

  • http://www.cookeatfret.com claudia (cook eat FRET)

    just absolutely wonderful and fabulous and amazing.

    photo really is making me twitchy.

    it’s bookmarked

  • http://closetcooking.blogspot.com/ Kevin

    That Paella looks nice and colourful and tasty. With seafood, chicken and chorizo you just can’t go wrong.

  • http://closetcooking.blogspot.com/ Kevin

    That Paella looks nice and colourful and tasty. With seafood, chicken and chorizo you just can’t go wrong.

  • http://soyandpepper.com/ Nilmandra

    What a gorgeous looking paella! And the recipe sounds fantastic too, definitely bookmarked. I agree with you about the difficulty of finding good paella in restaurants. I think it’s rather like finding good and authentic sweet and sour pork or kung pau chicken! I loved the paella that we had on holiday in Barcelona a few years back, and actually managed to find a decent one in a restaurant in Canterbury, UK last year. I really need to make paella soon.

  • http://soyandpepper.com/ Nilmandra

    What a gorgeous looking paella! And the recipe sounds fantastic too, definitely bookmarked. I agree with you about the difficulty of finding good paella in restaurants. I think it’s rather like finding good and authentic sweet and sour pork or kung pau chicken! I loved the paella that we had on holiday in Barcelona a few years back, and actually managed to find a decent one in a restaurant in Canterbury, UK last year. I really need to make paella soon.

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  • Margarita

    I’m also Spanish and I have only seen paella made with chorizo overseas, never in Spain, and I have travelled extensively in Spain. It doesn’t mean that chorizo shoudln’t be used (some people seem to think anything goes in a paella!) but to me it’s a different dish altogether if you drop chorizo in it. Its flavour is so strong it’s overpowering. Not paella.

  • Margarita

    I’m also Spanish and I have only seen paella made with chorizo overseas, never in Spain, and I have travelled extensively in Spain. It doesn’t mean that chorizo shoudln’t be used (some people seem to think anything goes in a paella!) but to me it’s a different dish altogether if you drop chorizo in it. Its flavour is so strong it’s overpowering. Not paella.

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  • GiChef

    Hi, great food blog, I’m also spanish, and I suggest to check this website:
    http://www.lapaella.net/
    Its in spanish/italian but the recipe has a detailed photograph step by step of a traditional way to cook a paella.
    And as the people above said, many different recipes depending the area you’re in Spain.
    I also suggest to read this link:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paella
    Thank you and good luck!

  • GiChef

    Hi, great food blog, I’m also spanish, and I suggest to check this website:
    http://www.lapaella.net/
    Its in spanish/italian but the recipe has a detailed photograph step by step of a traditional way to cook a paella.
    And as the people above said, many different recipes depending the area you’re in Spain.
    I also suggest to read this link:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paella
    Thank you and good luck!

  • aude

    everything sounds great and looks good.
    but you did not mention when do you add the saffron.
    there are some of us that need to no.

    • marc

      Nice catch. I’ve added it into the instructions. Sorry about that:-)

  • http://bradleyangusbridges@gmail.com aude

    everything sounds great and looks good.
    but you did not mention when do you add the saffron.
    there are some of us that need to no.

    • marc

      Nice catch. I’ve added it into the instructions. Sorry about that:-)

  • mintcreative

    I tried this months ago and finally made my way back to your site. Love love love this recipe – it's become one of the staples in my foodie family!

  • KD

    Marc, being half Japanese; I have to ask, wash the Valencia rice until it’s clear?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Nope, there’s no need to wash any of the European rices (Valencia, Bomba, Arborio, Carnaroli, etc)

Welcome!

I'm Marc, and I want to teach you some basic techniques and give you the confidence and inspiration so that you can cook without recipes too!

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